Former President Jimmy Carter said Sunday that he found he “was absolutely and completely at ease with death” after doctors told him in 2015 that his cancer had spread to his brain.
“I assumed, naturally, that I was going to die very quickly,” Carter said during a church service in Plains, Georgia. “I obviously prayed about it. I didn’t ask God to let me live, but I asked God to give me a proper attitude toward death. And I found that I was absolutely and completely at ease with death.”
“It didn’t really matter to me whether I died or lived. Except I was going to miss my family, and miss the work at the Carter Center and miss teaching your Sunday school service sometimes and so forth. All those delightful things,” the 39th president added, smiling.
The son of a peanut farmer who entered the US Naval Academy during World War II, Carter announced he beat cancer in December 2015 after he received experimental treatment for liver cancer that metastasized to his brain. During a news conference at the time, Carter said his fate was “in the hands of God” and vowed to continue teaching Sunday school at his church “as long as I’m physically able.”
When Carter celebrated his 95th birthday on October 1, he became the oldest living former US president, a title once held by the late George H. W. Bush, who died in late 2018 at age 94.
Carter teaches Sunday school lessons at Maranatha Baptist Church in his home state of Georgia, but after an October 21 fall in his home that led to a minor pelvic fracture, the church said he would miss his appearance. The church later announced the former president would teach as scheduled.
Carter, who has recently spoken out about the chaos of Washington, also touched on the state of the nation in the Sunday morning service.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if the United States of America could be a superpower in maintaining peace? … Suppose the United States was a super power in environmental policy. Suppose the United States was a superpower in treating people equally. See, that’s the kind of superpower I’d like to have,” said Carter Sunday, who once said that if he had one wish for the rest of his life it would be that he gets to see peace in the Middle East.
Carter said the United States would be a better country if people reached out to somebody who might need a friend.
“That’s the way to make the United States a superpower,” he said. “We can help the United States become more peaceful.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to more accurately describe Carter’s military service and to reflect that he teaches Sunday school class.